Duchy Plan To Refurbish Farm Gets Approval

Concerns over cast iron drainpipes and tenancy conditions threatened to derail a planning application by the Duchy to refurbish a dilapidated St Mary’s farm.

A detailed planning application showed the poor condition of Borough Farm, which is currently uninhabited, including leaking roofs, damp, rot and woodworm.

The Duchy want to completely renovate the Grade II listed property, with an extension into adjacent outbuildings while demolishing others.

Richard McCarthy said he wanted to “take his hat off” to the Duchy for the care they’ve taken with this application, saying the proposal was a careful and sympathetic refurbishment of a very neglected building.

But Richard added that, with the high cost envisaged for the work, it’s obvious that the finished article isn’t going to be let at a peppercorn rent.

He said the Council had recently written to the Duchy about other properties that they felt should be let locally, on a permanent basis, and not as a second home. He wanted to see a similar letter written on this occasion.

However, Chief Planning Officer, Craig Dryden, said this project will make a previously uninhabitable Grade II property suitable for living in and he thought the future occupancy of the property was down to the Duchy of Cornwall.

Chris Savill felt they needed to trust the Duchy on this. She said recent examples showed the Duchy were doing their best to make refurbished houses available as permanent residences, and not letting them to second homeowners.

She felt that continually writing to them about this could be detrimental to their partnership.

Dudley Mumford said there was no indication from the Duchy about how they will let the property. He felt they should, as a local authority, be questioning them on this and the Duchy have a responsibility to say what their plans are.

“We’re not in a position to request that information,” said chairman, Gaz O’Neil, and Craig said he didn’t think they could put any restrictions on the tenancy.

And when the proposal to write to the Duchy about tenancy was put to the vote, it was rejected by 8 votes to 4.

Fred said the planning application was “quite revealing” as it showed the condition of some Duchy properties on the islands. He felt it would be useful to have a site visit after the refurbishment rather than before as is usual.

And John Goddard said he was astounded to see the state of the property and felt the duchy weren’t carrying out their duty as landlords although Craig said the responsibility on the lease for maintenance could have been on the tenant and Richard McCarthy confirmed that was the case.

But that left a thorny issue for Gordon Bilsborough. Several times during the debate, he questioned the insistence of the Duchy to replace plastic guttering and drainpipes with “Victorian” cast iron ones.

He felt that was “going back” and at one point suggested that the Grade II listed building “quite frankly needs to be knocked down and something decent building.”

He was backed up on this by John Goddard, who said the Duchy have removed plastic guttering and replaced it with ironware several times over the years. He said you “get rust marks running down the wall which are detrimental to the building.”

But Craig said Grade II listed buildings can’t be demolished, as Councillor Bilsborough was suggesting, because they’re part of our heritage assets.

And Gaz said that the proposal, including cast iron guttering, stood.

Members voted to grant planning application.